McLean Bible Church to vote on renewal after 2021 election upset congregation

Executives at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia, hope a year-long battle over church elections will begin to settle Sunday when the congregation votes on a new plan to elect its board of elders.

But a lawyer representing the plaintiffs who have sued said their court battle will continue, seeking a remake that would allow only members who had joined before the failed June 2021 election to cast ballots in the new election.

In the 2021 election, neither candidate received the 75% of the vote required by the church’s constitution.

The 2021 vote became controversial after some members said congregation leaders were seeking to introduce Critical Race Theory and other “awakening” elements in a church previously known for its conservative evangelical Christian teachings.

Dissenters, including five members who are suing the church, say executives at McLean Bible Church want to rig the election to favor their elder slate.

“Instead of offering to do the right thing, and actually redoing the election correctly, from members duly active in June 2021, the Board essentially stuffed the ballot boxes twice, adding hundreds of new members selected by the Board in December after litigation began, and proposing to add hundreds of new members selected by the Board in May, just before the proposed new vote.” said a statement from the plaintiffs. “All these hundreds of members who were unknown to [McLean Bible Church] last July it would now be allowed to dilute the votes of people who were proper members last July. It is a complete bait and switch. If the Elders cannot win by destroying the secret ballot, they will win by stuffing the ballot boxes just before the vote.”

The 61-year-old congregation, founded by a group of five families seeking to form a nondenominational church, is best known for the ministry of the Rev. Lon Solomon, who pastored the congregation from 1980 to 2017.

Membership is about 3,000, with weekly attendance averaging 10,000 people, a church source said. With its main campus in Vienna, the church has satellite congregations in three other Virginia cities: Arlington, Lansdowne and Manassas, and one in Rockville, Maryland.

The church attracted attention in 2019 when then-President Trump attended a Sunday morning worship service and was invited to the platform by the Rev. David Platt, Mr. Solomon’s successor, who prayed for the president. After the criticism, Mr. Platt, who was not available to speak about this article, admitted that the sentence had angered some members.

The church is proposing a new election overseen by a “neutral observer” that would not only mark a repeat of the disputed 2021 election for three seats on the board of elders, but also hold a vote for the 2022 elder list. , the church elects three members to its six-member board each year.

The Rev. Wade Burnett, senior pastor for the church’s executive leadership, said the election plan “would give the plaintiffs what they’re asking for and they’d get back to voting on the same elders, using whatever they wanted, like secret ballots and someone to vote on.” observe it.”

“If the church [members are] willing to do that, then the lawsuit is discussed, it makes the lawsuit unnecessary because the church now has an opportunity not only to address all the things that they say we should do, but also to express the unity that this is who we are . I want to lead the church.”

Attorney Rick Boyer, who represents the five members suing McLean Bible Church, said the new plan is a ruse: “The leadership of the board of elders [does] They don’t want transparency, they don’t want accountability.”

Boyer said the plan is “a power play that they have to win at all costs. And it’s not about following the church constitution or membership rights.”

Another former McLean member also rejected the plan.

“This is kind of a manufactured ‘nuclear option’, at best, that they’re trying to employ,” said Jeremiah Burke, a former member of McLean Bible Church who is not a party to the lawsuit. “It’s a secret way to change the [church’s] constitution without telling the congregation that they are changing the constitution.”

Mr. Burnett said that if McLean Bible Church acquiesced to the demand that ballots be limited to a certain group of members, it would divide a body of believers.

“We are not going to create two classes of members,” Burnett said Friday. “And we’re certainly not going to accept that a state court judge has the authority to tell various members of our church, they can vote, but they can’t, even though they’re both MBC members. If he declares before God that he is an active member of MBC, including the plaintiffs, then he can vote.”

Mr. Burnett said he hopes all church members can reconcile.

“I would love to see full reconciliation and restoration,” he said. “When these people are together at the grocery store, my hope is that we get back to a place where they have a great conversation with each other and don’t cross paths. Many of these relationships go back a long way. That is where my heart is as a pastor.”

Leave a Comment